(Photo courtesy of Dayton Athletics)

The farther my dreams started slip away from me, the more I fell back on my faith.

God was the reason I had even come this far as an athlete, so there was no reason to doubt him now. Even when I was playing basketball in Iceland, where I didn't speak the language and the sun set at 3 p.m. in the winter, I still believed in God's plan. That acceptance of His will was big for me, because just three or four months after I started playing there, I was cut from the team.

I landed a roster spot with a team in Columbia, but I got injured and had to sit out the rest of the season. Even then, God didn't abandon me. Maybe He was testing me, but God didn't abandon me.

I knew this because I had read the book of Job.

If you have ever suffered one setback after another in your life, I would definitely encourage you to read the book of Job. For those who may not know the story, Job is a faithful man who had financial security and a great family. Everything you could want in life. When God asks Satan about Job, the devil theorizes that he is only faithful because he has a great life. If everything was taken away from him, Job would curse God.

Challenge accepted.

First Job loses his wealth and his children and servants. But he stays faithful, praising God. Then he loses his health, as Job develops boils. At this point Job's wife tells him to “curse God and die” but he refuses. Things seem to unravel for Job before he finally asks God about what is happening to him. God responds, and Job understands that the whole plan is beyond his knowledge and control. Eventually Job sees his wealth return, and watches as his family grows to the fourth generation.

But the point isn't that Job gets his wealth in the end. The point is that Job never curses God or blamed God. He refused to do it, and so did I.

Even now I still pray three times a day – morning, afternoon, and before I go to sleep. God is the reason for everything good that has ever happened to me in my life, so I wasn't about to stop now, just because I wasn't playing in the NBA.

I didn't quit my faith, just as I decided I wouldn't quit on my career. At that point the issue wasn't whether or not I wanted to play, but where I could be a good fit. I had an opportunity to play in Morocco, but after praying about it, something just didn't feel right. I turned that offer down and was prepared to play in Belgium when Marcellus Barksdale made the phone call that turned my career around. I don't know how to thank him enough for what he did.

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Thomas Hager